Colorado Springs / Arvada, Colorado
Industry: Built environment
Products: Furniture, countertops, doors, and decorative treatments
Owner Freddie Provenzano makes furniture and decor from live-edge wood slabs that showcase the material's natural grain.
Walk into the Eden Oaks Designer Woodware's shop in Colorado Springs and you'll hear the shrill sounds of sanders and saws, smell newly stained wood, and see clouds of sawdust -- all signs of artisans at work.
Provenzano says he risked it all when he opened a custom carpentry shop in a 160-square-foot storage unit. Five years later, he owns shops in Colorado Springs and Arvada. And the company's hand-crafted custom wood furniture, doors, countertop, and kitchen islands are in high demand.
The former real estate and mortgage manager got bored in a post-recession economy. That's when a friend told him about significant quantities of prized Appalachian oak that were being discarded or burned by a Midwest shipping container manufacturer. Much of the lumber had originated as slabs cut from a single tree -- a prized woodworking material.
Provenzano jumped on the opportunity to meet with the manufacturer's vice president and negotiated the purchase of leftover material. On a trip to pick up the first truckload, he realized he'd made a good $5,000 investment. "On the way home, I sold half the lumber for double what I'd paid for the whole load," he says.
That discovery of valuable reclaimed and repurposed woods turned out to be life-changing. "We work with various suppliers throughout the country and get loads of wood shipped in," explains Provenzano, adding that UPS Ground and two commercial truck lines currently handle product deliveries to 14 states.
The company's distinctive live-edge slab wood tables are found in restaurants and brewpubs from New York City to San Francisco, though Colorado still accounts for the majority of business. And demand for quality domestic hardwood products continues to grow, thanks to devoted fans of renovation. "It's been great for business. HGTV remodeling shows and social media campaigns have taken us to the next level," he says, pointing to more than 25,000 social media followers. Increased orders for accent walls, butcher-block kitchen islands, farmhouse tables, and custom doors orders are the result.
A skilled carpentry team is credited for much of the company's growth. Provenzano says his business is all about the three Ps -- people, product and process. That's evident, watching the carpenters' focus and attention to detail. That artisanal passion is consistent throughout Eden Oaks' products. As one employee explains, "After a few days off, I get restless if I'm not working on wood. I love what I do."
In addition, seven full-time installers handle final installation. Consistent attention to quality has paid big dividends to the bottom line. In 2018, the Colorado Springs shop is once again moving to larger quarters, as revenues are forecast to hit another high.
Provenzano calls his 17-member carpentry, administrative, and sales teams "family," and says business is operating at maximum capacity. "We're in a real win-win position, finding innovative ways to repurpose some of nature's finest reclaimed woods."
Challenges: "The evolution of processes as we grow -- from initial order to product manufacture and final installation and delivery," says Provenzano. "We're continuing to refine the way we do business.
Opportunities: Regional and national expansion. "Growth into Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma -- or cities like Louisville, Chicago and Austin where we'd like to establish design centers and product warehouses," says Provenzano. "We've learned there's a market for high-end, hand-crafted wood products at a reasonable price."
Needs: More room, says Provenzano. "In Colorado, the marijuana grow industry has taken a lot of warehouse space and driven up rents," he says.